I’m an accidental foodie.

Here’s how it happened.

I was born in Asia into a mixed race, mixed ethnic family. Rice. Potatoes. Turtle eggs. Pea soup. Pork satay. Bloodwurst. All were on my childhood menus. All of it traditional for us. None of it really traditional in the full sense of the word.

I immigrated to the U.S. at age 10 and learned to love burgers and cherry cokes and fries.

As a university student, I traveled through Europe and discovered real bread, real cheese, and what real Greek people living in a village above Athens — one accessible only by foot — ate.

I became a Mom shortly before I picked up my BA in German and political science and was forced to learn to cook hamburger 100 ways, the title of one of the first cookbooks I owned.

I moved to Canada and became a “hard news” journalist and while immersed in investigating one government scandal or another, I was given Julia Child’s first cookbook.

Some years later, I needed a new job and was offered the position of Lifestyles and Food Editor at a major daily newspaper in Vancouver.

In 2008, after 20 years, I took early retirement from that job and decided to try farming.

I’m not a farmer by any stretch. Today, I work part-time in a gourmet food store, am still passionate about growing my own food, and haven’t lost the love of writing about what to eat, where to source it, and how to cook it.

Accidental, yes. But darn lucky, too.

My work has appeared in the following publications:
Alive Magazine
Vancouver Province
National Post
Ottawa Citizen
Edmonton Journal
Montreal Gazette
Calgary Herald
Victoria Times-Colonist
Windsor Star
Leader-Post Regina

Welcome to my table

I live to eat.

Well, let me tweak that a little.

I love to eat, but I also love to think about eating and all its dimensions.

Like culture:
The first time I had real Greek yogurt about 40 million years ago (yes, I’m that old!) was the first time I had yogurt. With real Greek honey. In a youth hostel in Athens. I was a college student ostensibly studying in Europe at a German university, but my real education was happening outside the stuffy classrooms, as I explored the shops and pubs and roadside stands in all the places I managed to squeeze in between the inscrutable lectures and endless recitation of historical facts and statistics. Since then, I’ve traveled on my stomach as often as possible. I have a husband who loves travel and eating as much as I do, and together, we’ve shared sweetly luscious fresh sheep ricotta in Tuscany, juices-down-the-chin grilled chicken along a sun-baked highway in Mexico and perfectly seared and astonishingly tender duck magrets at a 500-year-old restored farmhouse in the south of France.

Like family:
I’m a mongrel who grew up without any real hard and fast family traditions. That’s because I was born in Indonesia into a Dutch-Indonesian family that had been nearly decimated by war. My parents were the lifeboat that carried me (and eventually my brothers and sisters) from Japanese prison camps on Java to Biak, New Guinea, to the Netherlands, to the U.S., where I was educated before heading to Canada. My Mom was a great cook who regularly prepared the Indonesian dishes she remembered from her youth, but my own culinary interests didn’t go much beyond the burgers and cokes we all wanted to be seen eating. Still, Mom’s cooking wasn’t completely lost on me. My own kids love it when I make “Indonesian Chicken”, a riff on my Mom’s recipe, and the request when we  have family gatherings is often for her satay and famous (it’s the best!) peanut sauce.

Like growing your own food:
My first venture into gardening was an attempt to grow zinnias in cement-like dirt that wouldn’t even support weeds. I was very young then (MORE than 40 million years ago) and failure was inevitable. I wouldn’t pick up the idea of trying to grow things again until I moved onto my own little plot of dirt in my mid-20s. It took me a number of years to learn the difference between sun and shade loving plants. I tried growing vegetables in the middle of a forest and couldn’t figure out why nothing was ripening all that quickly. Today, I live on two acres about 30 miles east of downtown Vancouver, have a flock of chickens and am still happily enjoying the more than 300 pounds of heritage tomatoes (Black Krim, Green Zebra, Aunt Ruby’s Green German, Rainbow and Japanese Black Trifele) I harvested in 2009 and turned into sauces, dips, spreads and soup bases. The slow-roasted tomatoes — sharp, sweet, thick and garlicky — are probably my favourite.

Like writing about food:
I’m a journalist by profession and my first years in the business were focused on municipal land scandals, murder trials, political election campaigns, bird-killing oil spills — all the lighthearted stuff. Then, by a serendipitous stroke of fate, I was offered a job in the lifestyles department of one of Vancouver’s major dailies. Since it meant either working or not working, I put aside my high-falutin’ hard-news airs and started reading cookbooks and food magazines and talking to the many pioneering spirits of B.C.’s now world-class food and wine scene.  It took no time at all to get hooked. “And I get paid for this!” I would chortle to myself on a regular basis.

Like the cookbooks:
As a young Mom, I was forced to begin cooking for myself because my own Mom was 1,500 miles away. I relied on several cookbooks to feed my family. One was Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, given as a wedding present. Another was 100 Ways with Hamburger (or something like that). Then an enlightened (and perhaps hungry) relative gave me Julia Child’s first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I was no Julie, but I was thrilled at what Julia was able to teach me. I managed to cook my way through most of the recipes, from Duck L’Orange to Quiche Lorraine to Queen of Sheba Cake and in the process, learned how to make decent sauces, how to serve lettuce as a cooked vegetable, and never to be without a bottle of vermouth in the pantry. As a daily newspaper Food Editor, I was also fortunate to work during the amazing explosion of interest in food and cooking that has gripped North America these past 20 years. I still have the first cookbook I ever reviewed. It was all about growing and cooking with fresh herbs, another defining moment in my culinary education. When I finally moved out of the forest and onto a south-facing sloped property, I thrilled to the sight of seven or eight different kinds of basil growing lustily and perfuming the entire neighbourhood. And my cookbook collection refuses to stop growing as well.

Final thoughts:
I still love eating great food, growing it, learning about it, cooking it and writing about it, hence this blog. I begin with cookbooks reviews, many of which I wrote for a blog attached to the Well Seasoned Gourmet Foods website. With a blog of my own now, I hope to cast a wider net. I’ll continue to review new books, but will also tell you about great new tools or gadgets I run across, new foods and new places I discover in my travels, food and wine-related events that might interest you, people who are as passionate about good food as you and me, and finally, all the things I’m constantly learning as I ponder how to fight the codling moth in my jonagold apple tree without resorting to nasty pesticides, or whether it’s wise to put a new squash patch where the chickens can get at it.

Welcome to my world!


2 Responses to “About me”

  1. Kris & Colin Says:

    Hey Renee,

    We really enjoy your blog. We checked this place out the other day and looks interesting. Have you heard of it http://dirtyapron.com/Home/ They also have a couple of restaurants on the same street. We went to Medina and it was very tasty.

    1. Hi K&C,
      I have heard of the Dirty Apron but not had the pleasure of attending there. Word is, it’s a very good cooking school and once I have a little extra time, I should check it out. Not working in the city anymore and being a full-time Valley Gal means fewer opportunities to explore city happenings. But keep the tips coming, you two. And keep me posted on new things Chef Roland is up to in Whistler.

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